Cameron Lemon silently rejoiced as he strolled across the Jackson State University stage during undergraduate commencement exercises last month. He was finally receiving his degree in journalism and media studies and doing so with honors. But it was a moment that almost did not reach fruition.“My mother was livid. She was hurt. She was mad. She was upset. She was disappointed. She was everything I did not want my mom to be with me,” said Lemon as he discussed ending his first semester at Hinds Community College, in 2013, with a 1.9 GPA.
The Terry High School graduate lost three scholarships and was unable to continue his education due to, what he calls, a lack of discipline and too much procrastination.
“I was doing more partying than I was doing schoolwork…but the reason my GPA was so low is that I overslept through most of my classes,” said Lemon, who soon discovered that without his scholarships, he was unable to afford classes the following semester.
He admits that being a young man with freedom was fun, but he struggled to find a balance between work and play.
“In high school, you have your limitations on what you can and cannot do in your parents’ household. But going to college and staying on campus, you’re in charge of yourself, and you have control of everything that you do,” he explained.Angela Glass did not learn of her son’s academic and financial woes until she came to pick him up for the Christmas holiday.
“When I went inside the dorm, he had everything he owned in the lobby. I asked him why he was bringing all of his things home for a two-week break,” she said.
When Lemon informed his mother why he would not be returning to school, Glass said the news did not register until they were on the road. Disappointed, she began to cry uncontrollably. “I literally cried all the way home.”
A mom with traditional morals and values, Glass expressed that she was raised with the understanding that education equated to power and freedom and had imbued the same in her son.
Still, she reveals that she was slightly apprehensive about him leaving for college pointing out that his immaturity and uncertainty about a major was conspicuous.Concerned, Glass asked him to take a year off to contemplate his future before starting at Hinds. But the eager Lemon assured his mother that he was ready and would be fine.
Despite his confidence, Glass confessed that she felt her son was not prepared for his next phase in life. She reminded him that college was going to be different from high school and that there would be no one keeping him on track and “ahead of the game.”
Mom also told her son that “if you start off right, you’ll end up alright, but if you start off slow, it’s hard to play catch up.”
Unfortunately, in this case, mom was right, and Lemon found himself ousted from school with no funds to pay for the spring semester. Initially, Glass planned to pay his tuition but instead, decided that Lemon was on his own.
“I explained to him, if he is really serious about school, he will work to earn his own way back,” she stated.
Lemon does not recall the conversation quite the same, explaining that his mother told him if he didn’t make anything of himself then she would be done with him. He laughed then said, “I was too young for my mother to be done with me. So I had to do what I had to do. I couldn’t have that.”
He then began working not one, not two, but three jobs during the spring and summer of 2014 and raised enough money to pay for his fall semester at Hinds.
“As a mom, we always want to cushion our child’s fall but sometimes feeling the hard ground is a reality check. Bought lessons are usually never forgotten,” Glass said.While back at Hinds, Lemon continued to work and attend class and was able to graduate in spring 2016 with a 2.9 GPA. Echoing his mother’s sentiments, he acknowledged that a GPA is easy to drop but extremely difficult to bring back up. Nonetheless, he had proven to his family and himself that he was more than capable of successful matriculation.
At the behest of Paul Scott, community college recruiter for JSU, Lemon enrolled at the HBCU the following fall. He readily became a transfer ambassador and encouraged other students to attend the University. Not only did he participate on the pre-alumni council and SGA street team, but Lemon also became director of media for the campus activity board.
“I tried to get involved in everything possible to make sure I had a lot of good things on my resume.” He said, “And when you’re active on campus it really boosts your college experience.”
Last month, Lemon, who had been on the dean’s list since starting at JSU, graduated with a 3.8 GPA and his mother could not have been more proud. She also realized that her hard work and dedication had not been in vain. “It was challenging, but he stayed the course,” she said.
The second time around made all the difference for Lemon who said that he was able to focus at Jackson State and that he enjoyed the students, professors, and classes. He adds that “if you like what you’re doing, and you like where you’re at you have no choice but to do good and be good at what you’re doing.”
His advice to incoming first-year students is: Get out, experience things, join organizations, have fun but also do your work.